I know this isn’t related to my categories Film, Music, Art for reflections but because I find this relevant to SLC, UT (where I live) and kind of mind-blowing, I’ve including this small reflection on Opioid/Heroin Addiction and Overdose related deaths in Utah.
I recently did a project for one of my classes in which I researched heroin/prescription opioid related deaths in Utah. This is after hearing multiple stories from different people in the last six months who had relatives and friends die from overdoses of these two drugs.
Contrary to the ‘clean’ and predominately MORMON ‘family’ state that Utah is perceived to be. We have a few issues that any big city can relate to. One of them is the problem of Perscription Opioids and Heroin Addiction which leads to some of the highest rates of drug related deaths (overdose) in the Nation.
For the past ten years (a sky rocket increase in deaths since 2007) Utah has ranked (often fluctuating up and down) as one of the top nine states for the highest drug overdose related deaths, specifically Opioids/Heroin.
In my research I found that often males in their twenties and females in their fifties had the highest rates of overdose. I also found that because of changes in the laws regarding prescription opioids which restricted certain opioids for a time there was an increase in Heroin overdose related deaths. This is an issue that I have barely heard the news, radio or gov. in Utah talk about, the only recent event to mark the importance of this issue was a summit meeting in 2016 in which issues such as the price for pain killers and opioids were exponentially more expensive than Heroin and affected the stats of overdose deaths. But even with the summit I’ve never heard people talk about this issue-I get the feeling that this issue is being ‘swept under the rug’ and silently dealt with by rehab centers and the gov. in Utah so as to not tarnish Utah’s image of being safe, clean, pro-family and a Mormon stronghold. (BUT I COULD BE WRONG!)
There is a discussion on the fact that about 60% of residents in Utah are members of The Church of Latter-Day Saints (MORMONS) and that because this issue of drug related deaths, specifically pain killers (Opioids) is on such a rise that Mormon residents may contribute to a large amount of the numbers of abusers and overdose related deaths (alpinerecoverylodge.com).
This is a discussion I stumbled on quite a few times in my research. Most articles stated that since it is against the belief practices of Mormons to ‘poison’ their bodies with liquor, cigarettes and even caffeine that if they are prescribed pain medication by doctors, Opioids must be OK, and that they may think that these pain medications will have no adverse affects on their body. It is extremely easy to become addicted to Opioids/Pain Meds and since an addiction leads to using up prescriptions and getting cut off, the next step is to find an equivalent drug which is HEROIN. It is dirt cheap on the streets and has the same affect but in the long run just like Opioids, addiction leads to death (most opioid deaths are accidental).
I am skeptical of the idea that most Opioid abusers are Mormon since I’ve known plenty of Mormons that refuse to even use Aspirin (because it is against their belief system). But the fact that a good amount of Utah’s residents are Mormon and that these drug related deaths are on an increase still does suggest there could be a correlation between the two.
There is also data to support that drug overdose related deaths in Utah, outnumbers deaths by car accidents and firearms which are some of the top causes of death in Utah next to accidents in the home (2014 pdf data).
Reflecting on my research, I find this issue to be extremely relevant and find it amazing I don’t see billboards and posters up all over the city addressing this issue (I honestly only recall seeing two billboards about this problem, one on State Street and another on 21st South in the past two years). After all that I’ve read and living in Utah for almost my entire life, I will say I am not surprised that this is an issue.